Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mother/Daughter Trip: Banff/Lake Louise... the good stuff


It's been three days since our fifth annual mother/daughter trip. I've had time to digest, reflect and calm down so, as promised, I'd like to report on some of the good exchanges I shared with my mom over the last six days lest you all think I'm a total Bitter Betty because of my last blog post:
1. I got to spend six full days in the most beautiful place I've ever been, all expenses paid. Can't shake a stick at that. In fact, many of the locales I've been lucky enough to visit in my life were made possible because my mom took me there. Without her, I never would have taken a covered wagon horseback trek through the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or gone dog sledding and snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park. I never would have skied at Killington, Vermont, or Vail, Colorado. I never would have ridden a bicycle around the entire island of Bora Bora or taken a Jeep excursion through the rain forests of Tahiti. I never would have attended the Kentucky Derby or seen half the Broadway shows I've seen in New York (and there are many!). I never would have seen tennis played at Wimbledon in London (twice) or taken a 24-hour flight to Sydney, Australia, to cheer at a rugby match and watch the surfers on Bondi Beach. I do not take these experiences for granted, I assure you. And I thank her for the blessing of every one.

2. On the plane ride over, mom and I had a great conversation where she asked me about myself (this doesn't happen often) and listened when I replied (which also doesn't happen often). Silly how simple it was to make me feel loved... just to be heard. To the man sitting next to us on the plane, it probably seemed like just another conversation between family members. But to me, it was a great step forward.

3. Rather than letting me endure seven sleepless nights with her (snoring), she offered to pay for me to have my own room, an expense she did not need to incur. She could have just said, "suck it up, chick." But she didn't. 

4. We agreed on our last day in Banff to not go anywhere and instead to sit by the pool in the cool breeze with the sun shining and the mountains surrounding us. It was--by all accounts--idyllic. We shared funny passages from the books we were reading and laughed until tears streamed down our faces like I have only ever done with my sorority sisters and best friends. (this, I don't think, has ever happened before)

5. This same day by the pool, I was able to open up to her about something she had done the day before (which was not included in my previous post) that had really irked me, and she listened... then laughed. It was great to know that she--like me--is able to laugh at herself and acknowledge the ridiculousness of her neurosis--much of which, unfortunately, I am starting to realize is hereditary.

6. On the way to Lake Louise, we stopped at Johnston Canyon to hike. It as a rough morning, to say the least. She called me an a**hole at one point, let's just leave it at that. Perhaps I was being one, or perhaps she was. Either way, we were able to calm ourselves down in the car. Once we started the hike, I think the majesty of what we were seeing was enough to put our earlier argument into perspective and both our grudges fell away like the fall leaves. Who really cares how to read a map? We GOT HERE and the stillness of the forest and the sound of our own breath as we hiked uphill was nature's Prozac. Just look at these waterfalls and tide pools with the most exquisite colors: 

7. One evening over a cocktail in Chateau Lake Louise, she asked me to help her improve. She said, "Tell me the things that really bother you about me, and I'll make a goal to work on a few each year. Make a list." I made a face instead, to which she said, "How many things are there?" I tell her three off the bat, and though I could keep going, I stop because I am proud of her for even asking the question. I really feel like she is dedicated to us getting better at being "us." It took five years of trips, but we're breaking through.

8. And on the 7th day, it rained. Not in Canada, but in New York. Nonstop. Which meant that the U.S. Open came to a standstill. No matches were being played and so there was no scheduling of our activities around the tennis. I told her it was God's way of telling her to get out of the damned hotel room and go exploring on the mountain with her daughter. She reluctantly agreed and because of this, we were able to see this together:

9. Our last activity on our last day at Lake Louise was a canoe ride across the lake. I laugh now at the symbolism in that ride--each of us paddling in different directions, with different strength and speed, each thinking we are right and the other is wrong. . .getting nowhere.
Finally, she agrees to let me paddle out, and she will paddle back. And that's kind of how it went the whole trip. We have to remember this simple ride on next year's trip. Sometimes she will have to depend on me and sometimes I will have to depend on her. Life is so much simpler when we both let go of our egos and our stubborn independence and remember that.

We'll be OK. And if not, you'll all have more fodder to read about next year. . .or when I get my book published, whichever comes first.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mother/Daughter Trip: Banff

I am now four days into a six-day trip with my mother; our annual mother/daughter-relationship-repairing-voyage. This year we traveled to Banff and Lake Louise in Canada. The scenery so far has exceeded my expectations, as has the kindness of the Canadians. But I simply cannot ignore some choice statements so. . .

Four Things My Mother Actually Said on This Trip
1. As we stood in line to board our plane to Calgary, the gate attendant called "Group 1" over the loud speaker. We were Group 4. The Group 1'ers loaded on. Then the gate attendant called "Group 2," and more people boarded. My mom, standing near the ticket scanner, looks nervously at me and shouts (because I am standing 10' away), "I think we missed our call. I think she already called our group. We're not going to get on this plane."

OK, I have to break this one down:
A) My mom is a world traveler. She has been since she was a very young child and her father was in the army. Further, she has homes in two states and spends more time in airports and on planes than most people do taking a poo. She should know better.

B) My mom has a law degree. She's a smart cookie. She has to know that numbers can go 1, 2, 3, 4 or 4, 3, 2, 1. But rarely, if ever, in any situation, do numbers go in a 4, 1, 2, 3 or in a 3, 4, 1, 2 sequence as would have to be the case for us to have heard the gate attendant call 1 then 2, but missed our Group 4. Using that logic (and this is assuming my mom is logical which. . .well. . .) there is no way in hell we "missed our call."

C) Even IF on this one day at this one gate, the attendant drank a martini before her shift and decided to call the groups out of order to see if anyone noticed (my mom would!), the likelihood that she would close the gate in our faces as we stood there with our boarding passes and say, "I'm sorry ladies, I already called your Group 4. It's too late now," is highly improbable.

2. {upon reading the Canadian customs entry card on the plane} "It says here you can't bring any fruit or nuts into the country. Dammit! I bet they make me throw out those Corn Nuts I bought in Dallas. I haven't even opened the bag yet. {dramatic, frustrated exhale} What a waste."

Let me repeat: my mom is a world traveler. She just got back from living in another country for the summer. She actually went through international Customs less than a week ago. Does she really think the Canadian Mounted Police are concerned about foreign diseases she's bringing into the country with her Corn Nuts (which aren't even really nuts, let me point out)?! And if they did snatch them, would it be so costly to buy another bag?

3. The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel is gorgeous and huge...

and, not surprisingly, booked solid on a 3-day weekend with four different weddings. No doubt a result of wedding room blocks, our assigned room was in the added-on wing of the hotel, not the main building. Though the Stanley Thompson wing is connected to the main building via a skywalk, and though the rooms in the Stanley Thompson wing are newer and larger than the ones in the main building, when my mother found out where our room was she demanded to be moved. The only remaining room in the main building was smaller and had a worse view, but mom didn't care because, "I paid to be in this hotel." And so we moved.
SHE: "You know why they put us in that other wing?"
ME: "Because all the other rooms were booked?"
SHE: "NO! It's because I'm a woman. They wouldn't have tried that crap if I was a man."
ME: "Really?? So all the women and ethnic and religious minorities are relegated to the Stanley Thompson wing then? Is that how it works in Canada?"

4. Two-and-a-half hours into a three-hour horseback ride through one of the most scenic mountainsides god created, my mother insists her legs are in unbearable pain. She dismounts the horse near a convenient break in the trail, saying "I cannot go on. I'm afraid I won't be able to walk tomorrow if I continue this ride. My tennis knees are in too much pain. I'll just walk the rest of the way back." Who does this? Who pays for a horseback ride and GETS OFF the horse before it's over?

In doing so she missed riding the horses through this river with her daughter:

One Unrelated Canadian Stereotype I Must Share
Canadians are so polite, I have twice missed an elevator because the people in front of me have said, "You go ahead," "No, you first," "No, I think you were in line before me,". . . ~ elevator door closes ~ 
I grew up in Miami where people will knock over a pregnant woman to get there first, wherever "there" is. The kindness in this country is alarmingly refreshing.

I promise to be more positive in reporting as our journey continues. . .